Skip navigation

    It gets such a bad rap, red tape. But it's been around for a long time.

    The National Archives' own Howard Wehmann weighed in on the subject,

    in a letter to the local paper.


                           Howard Wehmann's Red Tape History Lesson - Wash. Post, June 11, 1980.jpg

                                  The Washington Post, June 11, 1980



     That kind of puts red tape in perspective, doesn't it?


    Here is a popular little item in an old library supply catalog:


                   Gaylord Catalog - page 90 - Red Tape.jpg

                                                                     Gaylord, Inc. catalog, 1928



   It's dead useful for all sorts of jobs.

    When a stack of papers is just too fat for an Acco fastener, a bit of red tape can save the day!


                                 Red Tape and Acco Fastener Hybrid - from RG 64, P 39.jpg


    And the guvmint bought plenty of the stuff.


                                              Government Buys Red Tape, too - Wash. Post, March 6, 1944.jpg

                                                        The Washington Post, March 6, 1944



    How and when "red tape" came to connote bureaucratic hoop jumping is anyone's guess.

    But it sure took hold in the popular imagination.


   And the National Archives itself was accused of being a perpetrator.


                         Red Tape in Disposal of Govt. Papers - RG 64, P 67, file 1938 April - Sept..jpg

                             NAID 7582964, file "April - September 1938"



   Well, guilty as charged. But the National Archives couldn't (and still can't) be too careful

    when it comes to disposal of records.

   So the rest of the government just has to deal.


    But it's true that there is plenty of unnecessary "red tape" twining around our lives.


                            Red Tape in Allstate Ad - Life, Aug. 26, 1957.jpg

                                     Life, August 26, 1957



         Where did it go? Oh, it's around. I clipped this one from a 1921 report just the other day.


                                   Red Tape Clipped from report - RG 83, PI-104 30, file Plan of Organization and Operation, 1921.jpg

                                    NAID 567368, file "Plan of Organization and Operation"



    Well, look at that, will you?


                           Red Tape Lipstick - from Ebay.jpg

                                 Seventeen, October 1955



    Cutting that tape can certainly be satisfying.

   On a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia recently, this caught my eye.


   Red Tape Cutting for Williamsburg Tunnel, 1949.jpg



    Oh, brother.

                                    Red Tape Prevents Indian Govt. Action on Rats Eating Records - Collection MUNDN, file Misc. Letters and Writings, box 3.jpg

                                             Collection MUNDN, file "Misc. Letters and Writings"



    Now the National Archives uses white twill tape for binding records.

    It just doesn't have the same ring, though..


                                     Twill Tape.jpg.


       Looking for a different kind of Valentine's Day gift?


                                                    National Archives Store - Red Tape Products